Homemade Pasta Recipe

Fresh Fettuccine

When I was little, when my sister and I felt desultory and bored, my mother would sometimes make us a batch of salt dough for modelling. We would sit at the small folding table in the kitchen and squeeze and roll and pinch to our hearts’ content. And although my sister’s creations were invariably more delicate and life-like than my own, I remember I once proudly produced a full range of miniature fruits and vegetables that tasted shockingly salty when you applied your tongue on them (it was irresistible).

In retrospect, I am quite impressed by my mother’s ability to whip up a perfectly pliable pâte à sel in what felt like minutes, then bake our figurines in the oven without them burning or cracking, at a time when there was, naturally, no Internet to turn to for guidance*. I don’t remember there being a book of “fun stuff to keep the kids out of your hair” lying around either, so I chalk it up to motherly magic.

In any case, the memory of these childhood episodes was awakened when I first tried my hand at homemade pasta sometime last year, using a newly acquired pasta roller accessory for my stand mixer.

Pasta dough is the most pleasant dough the cook is ever given to handle, silky smooth and wonderfully cooperative, and letting it glide through the cylinders of the pasta roller and onto the palm of your flattened hand, to be folded and fondled and cut into any number of pasta shapes truly feels like child’s play.

The pasta dough recipe I use is based on the formula Michael Ruhlman shares in his Ratio book, a title you should definitely add to your wish list if it’s not already standing on your kitchen bookshelf. He gives a ratio of 2 parts egg to 3 parts flour for his pasta dough, and I’ve used it with good success. I like to substitute fine semolina flour for part of the flour, to give the pasta a little more substance and chew, and I add some salt as well, for a more even seasoning in the finished dish.

Although you can play around with this recipe and add flavoring or colorings to the dough — squid ink makes for a fetching presentation — I concur with Michael Ruhlman when he writes that “unlike flavored breads, which we eat with little adornment, pasta is usually dressed somehow, so you should have a good reason for flavoring your pasta dough, rather than adding the flavor after you’ve cooked it.”

I mentioned above that I invested in a (second-hand) stand mixer accessory to support my pasta-making ambitions, but a hand-cranked one works well too, though most people find it necessary to have someone land a third hand, at least when they’re starting out. Either one of these tools would make a generous gift idea for the culinary-oriented on your list.

What you can do without, however, is a drying rack: I’ve learned from my friends at Hidden Kitchen that wooden clothes hangers do the trick just as nicely — just remember to wipe off the flour before you put your black suit pants back on them.

* I imagine in the near future such a statement will elicit disbelief in young children, who will ask, “Really? There was no Internet when you were growing up?” and I will feel a million years old.

Homemade Pasta

– 3 large eggs, about 160 grams without the shells (5 2/3 ounces)
– 160 grams (5 2/3 ounces, about 1 1/3 cups) all-purpose flour, or the same weight as the eggs, plus more for dusting
– 80 grams (2 3/4 ounces, about 1/2 cup) fine semolina flour*, or half of the egg weight
– 3 grams (1/2 teaspoon) fine sea salt

Serves 4.

Break the eggs into a bowl set on a scale, weighing them to determine the appropriate amount of flour and semolina flour.

Place the flour, semolina and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Form a well in the middle, and pour in the eggs. Using a fork or a dough whisk, stir in the eggs, gradually blending them into the flour.

When the dough comes together, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead it until soft and smooth — the traditional simile likens it to a baby’s bottom, minus the diaper rash I assume — about 8 minutes. The dough should not be tacky; add a little more flour if necessary. Cover it with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest for 30 minutes. (You can also prepare it up to a day in advance and refrigerate it.)

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Take one piece of dough (keep the others covered to prevent them from drying out) and flatten it into an oval disk between the palms of your hands.

Have ready a couple of wooden clothes hangers, the horizontal bar wiped clean, dried, and lightly dusted with flour.

Set a pasta roller on the widest setting, and slip the disk of dough into the roller to thin it out. Fold the strip of dough in half so the two short sides meet, and slip the dough into the roller again, fold in first. Repeat 3 or 4 times until the dough feels supple and it is a more or less even rectangular shape. If it gets sticky at any point, dust it with a little flour.

Switch the pasta roller to the next (= narrower) setting and slip the dough in (just once this time) to thin it out. Repeat with the subsequent settings until you reach the thickness of your choice and get a long, rectangularish sheet of dough. Dust it with a little more flour, slip it onto the bar of one of the prepared hangers, and hang it to dry while you work on the remaining pieces of dough.

(If you don’t have a pasta roller, perhaps you can borrow one from a friend? Otherwise, roll up your sleeves, whip out your rolling pin, and roll the dough out as thinly as you can.)

The pasta dough is now ready to be cut, either using the blades of the pasta roller to make fettuccine or spaghetti, or by hand to make ravioli or all sorts of hand-cut pasta shapes. You can also use the sheets of dough as is, to make lasagna or cannelloni.

To cook fresh pasta, plunge in boiling salted water. Stir gently during the first moments of cooking so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan, then cook for a few minutes, until they rise to the surface. That’s your cue to taste for doneness, drain, and coat or top with the sauce of your choice.

Once cut and/or shaped, fresh pasta can also be frozen. Cook as described above, without thawing.

* If unavailable, just use 240 grams (8 1/2 ounces, about 2 cups) all-purpose flour.

Cooking/baking time: 5 min

  • Ooh! I just received a bag of semolina flour from a fantastic local grain mill. Now I have something exciting to do with it. Thank, Clotilde!

  • Homemade pasta has been on my “must-make-soon” list for ages!! Really love a good truffle and parmesan sauce, which of course must be accompanied by homemade pasta.

  • Impressive! I could never get the consistency right, but you have inspired me to give it another real go!

  • Pappardelle or stuffed ravioli with apple walnut and kale are my favorite. Find more pasta ideas on my blog.

  • Curzon Tussaud

    Some years ago, I bought in Italy a little electric motor which powers hand-cranked pasta machines via a spindle which goes in where the handle normally does. This of course gives you an “extra” hand for manoeuvring the sheets of pasta through the machine.

    • That sounds like a nifty tool! I didn’t know such a thing existed.

  • What a beautifully written and persuasive piece to get me to pull out my pasta maker. It has been some time. Thank you, as always.

    • Thank you, Lucy! I’d love to hear what you make when you do.

  • Such a lovely story, thank you for sharing it. I was always surprised at the taste of play dough – it was difficult for me to reconcile the pink and the saltiness.

  • Rachel

    You brought back fond memories of the homemade Play Dough my mom used to make for me at the same age. (She never baked the shapes I made, but I loved playing with it and I, too, could never resist tasting it…)

    I’ve never made my own pasta, but one of my fave recipes for fresh pasta is buttered taglierini with scallops and white wine (which I got from Jamie Oliver’s first book). Simple, extremely quick, yet so decadent!

    • That sounds great, I’ll have to look up the recipe!

  • gus

    I actually have done away with drying racks altogether and find myself really enjoying the pasta even without drying. I just flour the first batch to keep it from sticking.

  • Sophie

    I used to really hate making pasta because it stuck together when I set it in nests to dry; that, or I had to have broomsticks with pasta all all over the kitchen. It drove me bananas. Now I use a ratio of 2 eggs to 1 cup flour (from Marcella Hazan), so slightly more than yours, but I find the ratio is just a starting point.
    Someone finally explained it to me thus. Start with 1 cup flour and 2 eggs in a food processor. Pulse several times and look at the texture. It should look like sesame seeds, and not clump together. If it’s clumping, add more flour until you get this texture. Then process until it reluctantly starts to coalesce. You should have to press it together to get it to hold into a ball. (For filled pasta, it shouldn’t be quite this dry.)
    Another trick to getting those nice crackly grooves is to run each piece through the machine at a each setting, then change to the next setting. The surface of each sheet dries out just a bit between turns this way.
    Thanks for the lovely blog.

  • Just one more thought about drying racks, or better, the lack thereof: broomsticks! (See here!)

  • I grew up making pasta. This post is great: it really gives you the idea of how easy and satisfying making fresh pasta is, once you have a little experience.
    I love the mixure semolina and normal flour, which I often use, but I prefer to work with my dough quite dry, so I’d probably add a bit more flour than in your recipe.
    Another trick: you can tell when the pasta has been worked enough easily: when, passing a folded sheet through the roll, you hear a snap from the small air bubbles trapped between the sheet, the pasta has the right consistency and you can start making it thinner.

    • Great tip, Caffettiera, thank you!

  • That was a beautiful nostalgic story and bought back such lovely memories, my sister and I used to bake salt dough and paint it for christmas decorations. Homemade pasta is the one thing I have had real trouble with, for me, it is too unpredictable. At one dinner party friends politely commented on ‘how wonderful’ and ‘what an effort’ I have gone to in making dish, the sauce was great but the pasta was disgusting, sticky and over floury! Its such a shame because when homemade pasta is good, it is seriously delicious. One of the best I have eaten is when I had homemade pork and thyme pasta in Istria and I don’t know what the chef did to it but it was something seriously magical. I will try your recipe Clotilde and fingers crossed, it will turn out better for me than before.

  • Takako

    How do you clean a manual pasta roller/maker? I have read that you cannot wash with water without separating all pieces by a screw driver. Do you have to separate all pieces using a screw driver and put them together every time you use it? It sounds like a lot of work as a pasta maker seems to have many pieces. Unless you are a mechanic, you don’t want to do it every time. I wish I could just turn/roll under running water for a few minutes to clean.

    • The pasta roller doesn’t get very dirty at all: what I do is leave it out for a few hours for any remaining bit of pasta dough to dry completely, and then I brush the roller with the little brush that came with the accessory.

      • Takako

        Thank you. That makes sense. I have been using a rolling pin, but couldn’t spread it as thin as I see an Italian chef does on TV.

  • This looks like fun! Thanks for the shaping links too, it makes the hard work look like a whimsical, effortless picturebook.

  • Oh how I used to love making Christmas ornaments with pâte à sel! We still have most of my very ugly creations, and as for the nicer ones, I suspect my mother had something to do with them. The day I have enough space for a pasta maker, I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy making my own pasta just as much!

  • Thank you for this delightful post, Clotilde! Making pasta dough is the perfect hand craft, you’re so right.

    I’m using a hand-cranked machine and an extra pair of hands, which makes for fun times in the kitchen. And I built a drying rack that looks very much like the one in your ads, but drying the pasta flat on a table cloth seems to work just as well.

  • Making your own pasta could be rewarding. You can also add other ingredients such as spinach or sun-dried tomatoes. Great post.

  • This is a great article. It brought back memories of my many trips to Italy and eating homemade pasta in cousins’ homes. Making pasta is a lot of work, but the taste is worth it.

  • Your mother sounds quite the creative type herself! Love homemade pasta,, and thakfully I haven’t had much trouble with making it, never tried semolina flour in it, in Lebanese cooking semolina is usually used for sweet pastries.

  • dory

    Thank you for the post. We did not make either pasta or dough in my house growing up. My mom was not terribly domestic. However, she used to talk a lot about growing up in the 1930s. Her father had a construction business in upstate New York (meaning anyplace north of New York City for those not from the U.S.). One of the men who worked for my grandfather was Sicilian, and he used to come by my mom’s family house every few weeks and fill the kitchen with pasta hanging from multiple broomsticks. Then he would make sauce, I think. Probably one of those traditional red sauces that Italian immigrant families made before WWII.I think Italian restaurants and pasta must not have been terribly common in those days, so the hand made pasta was a very vivid memory for her, and she told the story many many times, until the memory almost became mine, as well. I have a hand pasta maker that I took from my parents’ house when it was clear that my Mom, who hates cooking, had bought it in memory of her childhood family friend, but would never use it. I almost began using it to process Fimo clay for jewelry making. Once you do this there is no return, as Fimo is toxic, and you can never get all of the little bits out of a pasta maker. I think you will be responsible for me taking out the machine and trying it for its original purpose. I will also tell your story to my mom, whose memory is now fading, and see if I can bring back memories for her of her childhood kitchen filled with pasta-laden broomsticks, and fragrant sauce. If my pasta comes out well, I may even recreate this for her. Thank you.


    • Thank you for this touching comment, Dory, and for telling us this story. I hope you and your mother can share a happy moment of recollection, and perhaps a bowl of homemade pasta.

  • Homemade pasta dough always seems so daunting for me! Thankfully there are tons of family run shops around my house that make them fresh for you:) The taste is incomparable!

  • Wooden clothes hangers – genius! Great idea! I have always wanted to make my own pasta but have never invested in the equipment. At least I know I don;t have to buy the rack!

  • Liz Thomas

    My husband bought me a hand pasta machine for Christmas years ago and although it has been out of its box a few times I have never used it.

    I am an adventurous cook and make all my own bread and have always wanted to do pasta — I think the main reason for my reluctance is that I have tiny — and I mean very TINY, kitchen and have yet to figure out how to attach it to dining table without damaging the wood.

    After Christmas I must have another concentrated effort and get myself motivated. Your story has certainly helped! thanks!

    • My mother had a pencil sharpener that clamped to a table like hand-cranked pasta machines do, and she clamped it over a scrap of cushioned table protection (in France, Bulgomme is the best-known brand) so as not to damage the wood. Perhaps you could try something like that?

  • Thanks for this story. My mother always used to make play dough for us herself, from scratch, and even bake our creations sometimes, but we weren’t really supposed to eat it even though it was edible. She put cream of tartar in it, so that it would last longer and she could keep it in the fridge between play sessions without spoilage (at least, that’s why I think the cream of tartar was there). In case you have any nieces or nephews to indulge over the holidays, just for fun, I looked up her recipe:

    2 cups of plain flour
    2 cups of coloured water
    1 Tbsp. of cooking oil
    1 tsp. cream of tartar
    1 cup of salt

    Cook slowly on medium-high heat until it thickens, and then let it cool to room temperature. It takes about 5 minutes, tops, to make.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your mother’s recipe! I think my nephew is still a little young for that — though he has recently proven his crayoning skills all over his bedroom walls and furniture — but I am definitely keeping your directions on file.

  • Love, love, love fresh pasta. Can’t go wrong there!

  • Martha

    I always make mushroom ravioli for Christmas as my hubby is a vegetarian. Maybe this year I will make it with a better dough. Yours sounds less sticky than mine. Rolling it out is therapy -it relaxes me and takes away all of the stress that builds up at Christmas, or whenever I decide to make it. Sure, things get messy and it’s complicated until you get the hang of it, but the rewards are great! Happy rolling to those who dare.

  • Perfect timing on your post… thanks for the inspiration. I reorganized my kitchen storage this week and rediscovered my old but hardly ever used pasta machine. It’s time to either use it or pass it along to someone else who will enjoy it. I’m tired of baking Christmas cookies, so perhaps it’s time for pasta making.

  • There is nothing better in this world than home made pasta, nothing I tell you! One of my favorites to make is gnocchi with semolina flour. Though, I find it so difficult to find semolina! This looks like a great recipe, thank you!

  • umbrellalady

    Great idea to use a wooden clothes rack – I’ve got two – a full-size one and a small 3 foot high one – looks like I will be using these for sure!

    • I’m actually suggesting clothes hangers, rather than a clothes rack, but that should work too!

  • Kojak

    For drying pasta, I use 48″ bamboo plant stakes. A giant bundle of them cost less than $5.00. They are thin, light weight and store easily. Plus they don’t have Lord knows what on them like my broom handle does.
    I do like Umbrellalady’s clothes rack idea. I just don’t have one.

  • How exciting! I LOVE fresh pasta and can’t wait to make some very soon! Nothing like it in the world!

    I’ll use a clothes hanger and post a photo on my site!


    Lisa xo

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